Now comes the rest of the season for the Nebraska volleyball team, the three months after the Nebraska-Stanford match.
Wednesday’s match, won by the Cardinal in four sets, was special for several reasons. It was just the second time a match between the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked volleyball teams was played in Lincoln. It was just the second time, but most college towns never get one of those matches.
In broader terms, it was the first time since the Nebraska-Oklahoma football game in 2001 that Lincoln hosted a matchup of the No. 1 and 2 teams in any sport.
But the reality is that the match may not have even been the biggest of the regular season for the Huskers. For Nebraska, the goal is always to try and win the conference championship, and starting next week the Huskers will play 20 matches over 10 weeks to decide the Big Ten. Several of those matches will be against top-10 teams.
Stanford is ahead of Nebraska right now. The Cardinal returned most of its national championship team and added a second-team All-America transfer and a No. 1 recruiting class. And six of Stanford’s players are seniors, while Nebraska has none.
Nebraska coach John Cook wants the Huskers to be on a gradual climb in their level of play over the next 10 weeks before the NCAA Tournament. Last season Nebraska lost six regular-season matches before reaching the NCAA final.
“That’s what last year’s team did, and I have confidence that we’ll continue to do that,” Cook said.
Cook thinks that Nebraska can reach a high level of play.
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“We got there with four freshmen last year,” he said, referring to Nicklin Hames, Callie Schwarzenbach, Megan Miller and Capri Davis. “I trust our training and how we do things and I think we got some pretty tough kids. Every team is different, but we have some players who have been there before and they got to show us the way.”
Many weeks, Nebraska will be preparing for a ranked team. But they’ll also be able to think about how much better they need to be if they get another match against Stanford, in the NCAA Tournament.
“I’m glad we played them in (the non-conference schedule) because they’re going to be the best team, and they’re the top team, and knowing we even took a set off them and we can compete at that level is really awesome,” Hames said. “I’m proud of how hard we fought, and I know that we can get to that level consistently.”
Against the Cardinal, Nebraska’s passing wasn’t good enough in sets three and four, which led to Nebraska having to take numerous out-of-system attacks. Stanford returned all of its passers, while the Huskers have had to replace two.
Cook said he knew all along the ways Nebraska needed to improve, but now the players do also.
“You can talk about it all you want, but now when you see it and feel it, it’s a different ballgame,” Cook said.
- Nebraska’s final nonconference match is against Wichita State at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Devaney Sports Center. On Friday, Wichita State lost in four sets against Wyoming in Omaha. Wichita State (3-8) will be playing its third match in three days.
- Saturday's match is the "Weekend of Champions" celebration. Nebraska will celebrate the 30th anniversary of its 1989 team that was the NCAA runner-up and won the Big Eight title with a perfect 12-0 record in conference play. Janet Kruse, Val Novak and Virginia Stahr were All-Americans on that team, while Cook was in his second year as an assistant for NU.
- Kara Brown, a senior libero and Lincoln East grad, leads the Shockers in digs with 3.28 per set.